Cablegate: Response to Request for Information On Forced Labor And


DE RUEHCL #0115/01 1551804
P 031804Z JUN 08




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: STATE 043120

1. This cable responds to a request for information on the use of
forced labor and exploitative child labor in the production of goods
in Morocco. While Morocco does not have a record of forced child
labor, child labor does exist and is used in the production of some
goods, mainly in the handicraft and carpet sectors. There is also
anecdotal evidence that child labor is used in textile production;
however, we were unable to sufficiently verify the extent to which
it exists. Children also work in the agricultural sector but mainly
on bona fide family farms and holdings.

2. Types of goods manufactured by exploitative labor

-- Good

- Carpets

-- Type of exploitation found in the production of goods

- Exploitative child labor - The GOM, local NGOs and international
organizations have confirmed that children, especially girls, are
used in the production of Moroccan carpets. A 2004 joint study
conducted by the Ministry of Employment and Vocational Training, the
International Labor Organization's (ILO's) International Program for
the Elimination of Child Labor (IPEC) and the World Bank found that
600,000 children worked in Morocco, a small percentage of whom
labored in the production of goods.

-- Narrative

- While it is impossible to confirm the exact number of girls
working in the carpet industry, a 2003 UNICEF study claimed that
there were between 38,000 and 50,000 underage girls working in the
sector. No organization has performed a more recent study to
measure any changes that may have occurred since the new Labor Code,
ratified in 2004, increased the legal age of employment from 12 to

According to the 2003 study, conditions in the workshops are
substantially sub-par. Approximately 88 percent of all workshops
have moderate to poor air circulation, 83 percent have moderate to
poor lighting, and only 79 percent have toilet facilities, nearly
half of which are below standard.

Young girls typically begin working in carpet factories between the
ages of 5 and 7. Girls this young often stand four to five girls to
a loom, working with only a few short breaks a day. The study
states that 50 percent of the girls work 10-11 hours a day, and 47
percent work more than 11 hours a day. Between 70 and 80 percent of
the girls work six days a week with Sunday being the most common day

There are various health hazards associated with standing in one
position for long periods that are compounded by the dangers the
girls face by inhaling wool particles. The girls also frequently
suffer from minor to serious cuts from the sharp scissors used to
clip the carpets. According to a UNICEF worker, by the time the
girls reach adolescence they may suffer from arthritic hands,
chronic respiratory infections, poor eyesight, and stooped back.
Almost 35 percent of the girls claim to be victims of work
accidents. A UNICEF representative says that one in ten girls
suffer from long-term health problems as a result of their labor and
most are illiterate. Moreover, there is a cultural stigma attached
to the work which makes the girls less marriageable in later life.

Most girls in this industry are placed by their poor parents who are
paid 20-350 dirham (USD 2.75-47.75) for the girls' labor each month.
Many of the parents are unemployed and claim the girls' meager
income is necessary to support the family. Families and employers
also use culturally based justifications to place the girls, saying
they are learning a trade for the future. Employers claim that the
girls little fingers are capable of doing intricate work that adults
are not adept at performing and forbidding the little ones from
working would mean losing a culturally based art form.

Girls, who have been rescued from the carpet industry and are

currently enrolled in an education project run by UNICEF, Red Cross,
and European-funded NGOs, claim that they were frequently abused on
the job. One child, attending classes with UNICEF, claimed, "I
worked more than 11 hours a day and our maalam (supervisor) struck
me with a stick every time she noticed that I was slow." The 2003
UNICEF study reports that 72 percent of the girls are subjected to
either physical or verbal abuse.

-- Incidence

- While every factory does not use child labor in the production of
carpets, the phenomenon occurs throughout the country. The largest
areas of abuse appear to be in the regions of greater Fes and
Marrakech, where UNICEF estimates approximately 15,000-20,000 girls
are employed making carpets in each city.

-- Host Government, industry, or NGO efforts specifically designed
to combat forced labor of adults or children in the production of

- In 2000, the GOM inaugurated a program to address the problem of
young girls working in the carpet industry. The pilot project,
located in Fes, encouraged employers to allow their young employees
to attend non-formal education courses part-time while continuing to
work. The project expanded in 2003 when UNICEF and IPEC joined the
effort. At that time, the program also began to withdraw younger
girls from the labor force and reintegrate them into the formal
educational system. To date the program has reached over 1,300

The Red Crescent also offers a program in Fes that targets girls
12-15 who cannot or do not wish to be re-integrated into the formal
school system. These girls continue to work in the carpet sector
while learning to read and write. In 2006, UNICEF, in cooperation
with the GOM, replicated the rescue project in Marrakech, where it
has also proven effective.

As a result of the success of the program in Fes, the GOM dedicated
150,000 dirhams (USD 20,475) annually to handicraft associations in
five cities -- Marrakech, Safi, Tangier, Meknes and Sale -- to
develop programs similar to the one in Fes.

-- Good

- Handicrafts including: pottery, tile work, wood, metal work,
leather goods

-- Type of exploitation found in the production of the good

- Exploitative child labor- The GOM, local NGOs and international
organizations have confirmed that children, especially boys, are
used in the production of these goods in Morocco.

-- Narrative

- The experience of young boys working in the handicrafts sector is
similar to that of young girls working in the carpet sector. It is
impossible in this sector, as it is in the carpet sector, to
establish the exact number of boys currently employed making

In the handicrafts sector, boys' work can include anything from
manual labor to actual production of goods. Like Moroccan girls,
boys begin working at a very young age, approximately seven or eight
years. The boys' salary is similar to the girls of the same age,
and, as with the girls, the money is nearly always delivered to the
parent. Again, most of the children working in the handicrafts
sector are from families facing economic challenges. According to a
UNICEF study, 95 percent of the children employed in handicrafts
come from families of 6-9 people living in domiciles consisting of
one to two rooms.

The health risks faced by boys working in handicrafts are numerous.
In addition to physical abuse at the hands of their employers,
according to IPEC and UNICEF, the children are often subjected to
physical risks from their actual work. In the pottery sector,
children are exposed to toxic fumes and are expected to carry overly

heavy loads of supplies and fuel. In the pottery and tile sector,
boys are exposed to lead glazes and solutions that are used in the
production of goods. The boys may spend many hours a day using
their bare hands to immerse the products in the lead solution,
thereby absorbing toxins that can result in permanent damage to
their health.

Young boys working in the metal industry often carry heavy materials
causing lifelong back and joint problems. Serious cuts, abrasions
and welding burns left untreated leave them susceptible to severe
infections. The boys are also exposed to corrosive acid, used for
rinsing metal products, toxic fumes, and flammable substances. The
boys seldom receive sufficient medical care for injuries sustained
on the job.

Work in leather goods and shoe production exposes the boys to toxic
fumes from glue and harsh chemicals used in curing leather. Hearing
loss is also a reality for children working in the shoe industry due
to the loud machinery and lack of protective gear.

There is often little or inadequate supervision for youth working in
hazardous situations. The president of a Dutch trade union, in Fes
to visit a union-funded child labor project, recounted the following
story, including photos, on the union's website. While in Morocco
she met a boy who caught his hands in a machine while working in a
shoe factory at the age of 12. His adult supervisor had gone home
for the day, and he was alone in the factory. Fortunately, the boy
was able to extricate himself from the machine and wander across
town to a hospital. His hands were so badly mangled, however, that
they had to be amputated at the wrist. According to UNICEF
officials, this is not a unique incident; there are many similar
stories in the region.

-- Incidence

- While there has been little research done on the phenomenon of
boys' work in the handicraft sector, it is clear that child labor in
this sector is not an unusual practice. Most reports on child labor
violations in the sector come from the Fes and Marrakech regions but
we have been told that there are violations throughout Morocco.

-- Good

- Textiles

-- Type of exploitation found in the production of the good

- Exploitative child labor - International organizations and the GOM
admit that child labor is found in the textile sector.

-- Narrative

- According to UNICEF, children work in the textile sector. The
majority of children in the sector work in small non-formal
enterprises. Children in this sector, like other sectors, are
subject to long hours and low financial compensation. According to
a 2003 report from the European watchdog group, The Clean Clothes
Campaign, conditions for children working in the textile sector in
terms of work hours, wages and security are much worse than for
adults. They claimed, in 2003, that children's salary averages
about 3 dirham/hour (USD .41) which was about 1/3 of the Moroccan
guaranteed minimum wage (SMIG). We were unable to substantiate more
recent data on wages and conditions in the sector through reliable

-- Incidence

- Children's work in the textile sector appears to be more
clandestine but less pervasive than in other sectors. Most of our
interlocutors claimed that the incidences of child labor in the
textile sector is mostly limited to small non-formal subcontractors
and is rarely found in larger factories.

-- Host government, industry, or NGO efforts specifically designed
to combat forced labor in the production of goods

- Post is unaware of any GOM or private sector program that targets

child labor in the textile sector.

3. The majority of working children in Morocco, over 85 percent,
work in agriculture. Post has, as yet, found no specific evidence
that children's work in agriculture goes beyond the acceptable
standards applied to children's work on bona fide family farms or
holdings. There is, however, the possibility that such work does
exist in commodities' production in Morocco. Post will continue to
follow child labor in the agricultural sector for any new
developments or evidence of abusive child labor.

4. The GOM has made great strides in attacking some areas of child
labor, child domestic labor for example. The use of children as
domestic labor has become less culturally acceptable in recent years
and appears to be on the decline, partially due to GOM awareness
campaigns. Child labor in the carpet and handicraft sector,
however, continues to be not only widely accepted but in some areas
encouraged. Many children are sent to learn a trade when the
educational system fails to provide a viable alternative. For many
poor families, the cost of schoolbooks is prohibitive and often
adequate educational facilities are unavailable. In these cases,
parents feel the best alternative is for the child to learn a trade
and guarantee stability in the future.


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